The events leading to the establishment of The RNA Society of Japan can be traced back to the 1970’s, which were a very exciting time in molecular biology research. Genetic engineering was a breakthrough technology that led to new developments and research into the genes and RNA of eukaryotes. Giant strides were made in knowledge and remarkable discoveries ensued. The interrupted gene was found, containing introns and exons, and splicing emerged as a novel concept. In the early 1980s, a catalyst RNA, the ribozyme was discovered. This was only the start of the succession of discoveries about the varied and previously unrecognised functions of RNA. Up until the mid-1970s, RNA was only thought to play a role in transmitting genetic information and to act as a medium in gene expression. A paradigm shift then occurred, sweeping away all conventional notions about RNA, propelling research to explore totally new avenues. Significant developments in RNA research followed in the 1990’s on phenomena including regulation of gene transcription, RNA transport, and RNA processing and translation. It became apparent that RNA function was tightly integrated into the expression and control of high-order complex traits of organisms such as development, differentiation, nervous system, and pathophysiology. No research in biological phenomenon today can be contemplated without recourse to RNA research.
During this evolving period, RNA research in Japan had always been of extremely high standard. Researchers have achieved valuable results to great international appraisal, contributing immensely to advances in life science. This excellent track record was strongly supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of the Japanese Government. During the 1990’s, group research projects on topics directly relating to RNA were undertaken that not only led to important findings but also played a major role in nurturing young Japanese scientists. This is exemplified by the establishment of the “Young RNA Scientists Group” by young academics in 1996, which has now evolved into an active forum for information exchange, encouraging expansion of the RNA research field and energizing the activities of young scientists.
Looking beyond Japan, the huge increase in RNA research community led to the inauguration of The RNA Society in 1993, mainly thanks to efforts of USA scientists. This Society publishes a monthly journal “RNA” and hosts international annual meetings of the RNA Society that are attended by more than a thousand participants. It is a huge generator of vigorous RNA research activities worldwide. By the late 1990’s, the scene was now also set for Japanese researchers to organize themselves into an integrated and wide-encompassing body dedicated to RNA research. An organization was urgently needed if the life sciences was to make further advances in the 21st century and thus researchers working mainly with RNA decided to form the RNA Society of Japan. Established in 1999, The RNA Society of Japan aimed to become a new and unique body beyond “The RNA Society” with the ultimate goal of “creating a new academic field for RNA research”. The research interests represented by our Society’s members covers all RNA-related biomolecular research, including the expression, function and structure of RNA as well as proteins and other molecules that interact with RNA.